What to do when things to wrong

We like to think that we are treated according to our performance. If a professor does a good job, (s)he will be treated well by the Administration. And even if (s)he does not, (s)he will be treated fairly. So we hope.

But the Administration consists of mere mortals, so sometimes things go awry. You could be denied a promotion. You could get an unfair evaluation (which might affect your salary). You could be given extra assignments without compensation. You could be suspended (or worse) without pay. Pretending that these things can never happen to you is like pretending that you can never be in a car accident. It is true that you can reduce the odds by exercising good sense, but it happens often enough (about the same ballpark odds as the car accident rate) to justify precautions --- and knowing what to do when things go wrong.

First of all, the Administration is not required to be ``fair''. Instead, the Administration is required to obey Federal and State laws and regulations, and the BOT/UFF contract that the Board of Regents and the Union negotiate every three years. (The current contract is the 2004-2007 contract, now online at http://w3.usf.edu/~uff/ratification/CBA0407.pdf.) So the Administration can be held to account if and only if there is a violation: a violation of the contract, or of State or Federal regulations, or of State or Federal law. If you feel that you are the victim of a violation, then you may seek redress by filing a grievance.

The Procedure

One of the primary purposes of the union is to assist faculty in the grievance process: after all, the contract that the union negotiates is little good if it is not followed. Suppose that you were or could be a victim of something the Administration did or didn't do. You must find the contract clause, or regulation, or law, that the Administration violated (this is why you should keep a copy of the contract handy.) Then you fill out a Step 1 Grievance form (Appendix C in the contract), and file it. These are all things that the union can help with.

Important: you MUST file the grievance within thirty calendar days of the violation. Otherwise, the grievance will not be processed at all.

Once you file the grievance, it enters Step 1. First, there is an attempt to informally work things out. This occasionally works, but if not, there is a formal Step 1 hearing before a representative of the Provost.

If Step 1 unsuccessful, the Union may choose to bring the matter before an ``impartial'' arbitrator. Notice that the Union must pursue arbitration: the grievant cannot do so alone. The Union has to be careful here because arbitration sets precedents. The Union and the BoR choose an arbitrator from a list, and then they present their cases before the chosen arbitrator, whose decision is binding. The Union charges non-members $ 2,500 for arbitration, an indication of how serious it is.

Additional Points

First of all, not all injustices are grievable: it has to be a violation. But if there is an injustice, we need to know about it: if it is not grievable, perhaps it should be: that's what contract negotiations are for. But no matter what the case, the union is experienced with the kinds of problems that faculty can have with the administration, so it is a good idea to at least seek advice.

Second, YOU HAVE ONLY THIRTY CALENDAR DAYS TO ACT. (And you have to file in accordance with the procedure outlined in Article 20 of the contract: read that article carefully before doing anything.) If you do not file within thirty days (of the violation, or of when you ``knew or reasonably should have known'' of it), the grievance can be dismissed out of hand with no hope for redress. This leads to:

Third, filing a grievance does not commit you to open warfare: the dispute can still be resolved rationally. In fact, a grievance provides additional ... motivation ... for the Administration to be rational. All filing the grievance does is keep your options open.

Fourth, often there are disputes over facts, so it is a good idea to keep a journal (with dates) recording everything. And keep all documentation generated by the episode. This is just because different people tend to remember things differently.

Fifth, notice that the union charges non-members for greivance assistance. This is one of the few places where the union charges for its services; the union negotiates the contract for non-members, too, free of charge. (However, how good the contract is depends on the union's clout which depends on the size of its membership, which means that non-members are not pulling their weight.)

Remember, the contract can't enforce itself, and you must know your rights if you are to enforce them.